THE SECOND TERM IN OFFICE
By Ignacio Ramonet
[This article originally published in: Le Monde diplomatique, December 2004 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.taz.de/pt/2004/12/10.nf/mondeText1.artikel,a0012.idx,1.]
The reelection of George W. Bush represents a grave moral sickness for the oldest democracy of the world. Technically, nothing was offered in this election. No one was able to question its legitimate course. The voters made use of their right and made their decision of their own free will even if they were intensively manipulated by marketing strategists and propaganda specialists.
This reelection is an alarming and shocking event. It confirms that democracy - the least imperfect form of government that we know - cannot prevent the assumption of power of dangerous demagogues. That George W. Bush of all persons whose religious fundamentalism, intellectual mediocrity and deficient education are not mysteries gained the best result of all presidential candidates in US electoral history is alarming. This happened although he deceived his people and lied to the Congress to wage a "preventive war" not authorized by the UN and occupy Iraq. This president did not stop his armed forces from excessive use of force and thus caused the deaths of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians.
As Seymour Hersh emphasizes in his book "The Chain of Command", president Bush ignored the 1976 executive order of ex-president Gerald Ford that prohibited the secret services from murdering leading foreign personalities and ordering the execution of suspected terrorists. He violated the Geneva Convention on war prisoners and arranged the torturing of Iraqi prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison and other prison camps. He has revived the spirit of McCarthyism insofar as connections to a terrorist association amounts to a verdict of guilty.
Every other state leader with such a "list of successes" would not be regarded as socially acceptable in the civilized world. Not so George W. Bush. To all appearances, he will continue this direction in his second term in office. Bush's first two important personnel decisions show that he interprets his election victory as approval of his policy. The nomination of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General gave the brush off to all critics who questioned torturing suspected terrorists. As a legal advisor of the president, Gonzales was responsible for the legal regulations that allowed the evasion of the Geneva Conventions with the term "hostile combatants" and made possible the prisoner camp at Guantanamo. The same Gonzales with contempt for valid US laws and international treaties annulled the prohibition of exposing war prisoners to "bodily strains" and legitimated this with the sentence: "In war times, the authority of the president is total." Concerning the nomination of Condoleeza Rice as Secretary of State, one can hardly avoid seeing a confirmation of the already practiced unilateralism.
The inability of the US military to suppress the insurgents in Iraq points to the limits of military power. Ariel Sharon, Bush's main ally in the Middle East, confirmed this fact in the moment of Yassir Arafat's death. The Israeli Prime Minister begins to realize that the Palestinians' capacity of suffering is greater than the destructive potential of his army. Will he draw the necessary conclusions from this?
As to Bush, will he recognize that globalization can lead to a tremendous confrontation if problems are not tackled with multilateral concepts and alliances? Will he understand that no power can take the law into its own hands?